Judge Profancik hereby remands himself to solitary confinement for the next seven days.
Our reviews of Star Trek: Voyager, Season One (published March 9th, 2004), Star Trek: Voyager, Season Two (published September 27th, 2004), Star Trek: Voyager, Season Three (published August 30th, 2004), Star Trek: Voyager, Season Five (published November 24th, 2004), Star Trek: Voyager, Season Six (published January 12th, 2005), and Star Trek: Voyager, Season Seven (published February 2nd, 2005) are also available.
"Nevertheless, I am willing to explore my humanity. Take off your clothes."
Lost. Wandering. Hopeless. Those are words that rather aptly describe the U.S.S. Voyager's quest to return to Earth from the Delta Quadrant. They also aren't too far off base when it comes to describing Star Trek Voyager as well. After three years, Janeway and her crew are steadfast in their determination to get back to the Alpha Quadrant, no matter how strong the foe or how unbeatable the odds. But though their mission is simple and direct, the show itself hasn't quite gelled. Now entering into the fourth season, the show was mixed up just a little bit with the addition of Seven of Nine. While some interpersonal conflict was restored, the episodes themselves still flitted about without a definitive sense of purpose.
Voyager never captured the same diverse, solid fan base of its predecessors, but two niche groups did make an appearance at about this time: women who adored the strong Captain Janeway and men who lusted over Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan, Boston Public). I'm sorry to say that I belong to the latter category, and there will be some discussion of her later on. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Facts of the Case
Captain Kathryn Janeway leads the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager on its quest back to the Alpha Quadrant. Presented during this fourth season are the following 26 episodes:
• Scorpion, Part Two
• The Gift
• Day of Honor
• The Raven
• Scientific Method
• Year of Hell, Part One
• Year of Hell, Part Two
• Random Thoughts
• Concerning Flight
• Mortal Coil
• Waking Moments
• Message in a Bottle
• The Killing Game, Part I
• The Killing Game, Part II
• Vis Á Vis
• The Omega Directive
• Living Witness
• Hope and Fear
At the end of the season, I had three general thoughts about what I had just viewed: The addition of Seven of Nine did help the season; the writers did come up with an occasional clever idea; and the episodes, overall, still felt disjointed. Before I get into expanding upon each of these points, I'm going to quote my review of the third season of Voyager. I believe you'll deduce how it's applicable to our upcoming discussion.
"Since the first season, the show has shed one of the two core ideas of the show: the friction between the Starfleet and the Maquis officers. Now that everyone is one big happy family, all that's left is the long trek home. You would think that leaves plenty of room for exploration and new ventures, but it seems that it left the Trek writers at a loss. Episodes don't flow naturally from one to another, and you can't grasp how all these disparate events are supposed to tie together as the characters try to get home. While there's an inherent arc to the series, it's more background noise than plot: One week gives us a problem with Tuvok; the next, a problem with Harry; and the following, some random new alien problem."
• Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One: In the bonus features (including almost half of the Easter eggs), Seven of Nine is discussed in some detail. The story for her introduction is detailed that Brannon Braga (who would later go on to have a fling with Ryan) thought it would be cool to have a Borg on board. Then Rick Berman decided to make it a "Borg babe." If the story is true, it's one of the smartest things they did because Seven turned out to be an excellent character, at least until Voyager turned into the "Seven of Nine Show." In a dynamic that would mirror the overuse of Data in The Next Generation, Seven become the stimulus for Voyager. Not only was she positively drop-dead gorgeous, but she was also the irritant needed to bring tension back to the ship. With Maquis and Starfleet working together, the introduction of Seven brought back a level of discomfort among the crew. It was a needed discomfort because the Maquis story was smoothed over far too quickly. Seven's brashness and complete honesty rankled enough feathers on the crew to liven things up. And her constant disregard for Janeway's orders made her role all the better. (I'm sure Robert Beltran still grits his teeth about this, knowing that his character should have been fleshed out in this fashion.) Seven gave writers a chance to add a few new twists to the show. But she is not without her controversy. Because Jeri Ryan is so attractive and because Seven's costume was an incredibly snug unitard, fans and critics charged that the show was stooping to luring men in with sex. (If you haven't seen Seven in costume, check out a few of the pics in the link provided.) And there's absolutely no doubt that is part of what happened. Ryan was hot and the show took advantage of that fact. And if it drew lusty young men to the show, who was to really complain? I certainly am not, because I enjoyed her visual presence on the show. I couldn't help noticing her incredible hourglass figure and stunning curves. I found her character quite appealing…in many ways. However you want to boil it down, the addition of Seven helped give some strength to the show, even if it did have its drawbacks.
• Writing: While reviewing my notes from each episode, I found that in several instances I wrote the phrase "clever idea." At this point in time, Star Trek is better known for its constant rehash of ideas, but this season the writers did try a few new things. Some of the episodes that I think stand out are "Message in a Bottle," "Unforgettable," and "Living Witness." With "Message," the writers were able to capitalize on the growing popularity of the Doctor while broadening his character and giving him a comic foil. The introduction of Andy Dick as the EMH-2 was a stroke of brilliance. "Unforgettable" is an odd dichotomy because I didn't enjoy the episode very much, yet the idea of a race of people who cannot be remembered is quite intriguing. And with "Living Witness," the writers introduced the latest spin on a time-travel episode with the Doctor coming online seven hundred years in the future. He then has to correct mistakes in a planet's historical records. It was a neat twist with some great acting.
• Season Arc: But even though there were several fresh, inventive
episodes, there were also the usual clunkers along the way—as noted by the
abundance of "C" grades above. (While that grade may be average to
you, it is a very low grade in my Trekkie book.) And for every neat idea, there
seemed to be an equally bad idea, like the lifeforms in "Demon." But
beyond all of this, there's still the problem of the quest to get home.
"Year of Hell" was clever but how does it propel the crew home?
"Prey," "Hunters," and "The Killing Game" take way
too much time to establish the Hirogen. In fact, the Hirogen significantly slow
Voyager down in its trip to the Alpha Quadrant. And while that reminds us of how
difficult and perhaps hopeless their journey is, as a viewer, I want to see them
slowly but steadily getting closer and closer to home. But, yet again, episodes
bounce around week to week, sometimes making progress—"Message in a
Bottle"—but more often than not, slowing them
How many times can you say the same thing about a Trek release? After so many sets, you know exactly what to expect with the video and audio transfers. The full-frame video is solid with nice colors and details, though there is a bit more shimmering and moiré patterns this year than past seasons. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix delivers crystal-clear dialogue, but the surrounds are barely ever used beyond a ship flyby. You've seen one season, you've heard one season, and you've seen and heard them all.
And the same thing goes for the bonus features. Following the tried and true formula, you are given:
• Braving the Unknown: Season 4 (21 minutes): A quick overview of the key changes during this season: the introduction of Seven and the departure of Kes. Key episodes are also discussed, including "The Killing Game," "Message in a Bottle," and "Hope and Fear." Though mostly par for the course, I found myself a bit more interested in this batch than previous ones.
• Time Capsule: Seven of Nine (13 minutes): The fascination with Seven continues as you get an overview of the sultry new character. What I found most interesting was Jeri Ryan's abundance of enthusiasm for her role and the show.
• Time Capsule: Harry Kim (13.5 minutes): What a perfect pairing for Seven's capsule. The one item that surprised me the most in this piece was how different Garrett looks versus when I saw him at a convention a few years back. Oh, I guess the profile itself wasn't too bad.
• The Birth of Species 8472 (9 minutes): I've never been particularly impressed with Trek's first all-CGI alien, so the episodes and features that center on Species 8472 aren't on my favorites list.
• The Art of Alien Worlds (10 minutes): Finally we get a bonus item that is fresh and new. This time we get a very interesting discussion on the evolution of the matte painting in the Trek universe.
And rounding out the bonus features is a photo gallery, the trailer for Trekkies 2, and the usual batch of Easter eggs. I would like to point out the continued lack of commentary tracks, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes production featurettes, and gag reels. We all know this material exists, especially when a quick BTS snippet and a gag piece are featured in the other special features on the disc.
Lastly, the Voyager menus are incredibly boring, and getting worse by the season. Who wouldn't have guessed the ship du jour would be a Borg cube?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Captain Janeway represents an exceptionally strong role model for women everywhere. She's determined, tough, and intelligent, yet she's still able to relate one-on-one with her people. Highly respected and admired, Janeway always puts the needs of her people far above her own needs. It's not what they can do for her but what she can do for them. We need more leaders like Janeway, people who understand their roles in life and actually carry them out.
In a refreshing change of pace, Season Four ended without a cliffhanger. Thank you! Not every season needs to dangle the carrot to make you come back next year. Some viewers do appreciate simple closure at the end of a year. Trust me, as torn as I am about the show, while it never completely pulled me in, I am not going anywhere, and neither are the legions of other Trekkies. You can always count on us to support the franchise, and we'll tell you when you're doing something right and when you've botched things. And with this fourth season, Voyager, you did pretty well with the introduction of Seven, you had to give Kes the boot because that's one female too many, and you tried to mix up the stories slightly more than usual. Though I still felt the stories were a bit too disjointed, I'm sticking with you and hanging on until the bitter end. As a Trekkie, that's my lot in life. For a non-Trekkie, the movies are far more palatable and easier to handle.
Star Trek Voyager, Season 4 is hereby found guilty of sexual misconduct. Seven is ordered to seven days of solitary confinement.
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